Recently I heard from Jane, a Genealogy Gems Premium subscriber in Canada, who needs a genealogy research plan! She’s researched on Ancestry.ca,Scotland’s People, the Free English BMD Index, FamilySearch and joined her local society. But she’s not sure where to go next with her research–there just are SO many options! If this sounds familiar, check out her question and the advice I gave her:
“I often end up wandering around in circles and mazes as one thing leads to another, and another, and … I am sure you know what I am talking about. I seem to be jumping back and forth between my Dad’s family, my Mom’s family, their families, etc. until there are times that I find myself at a certain point, only to wonder ‘Where was I going with this?’ I’m now wondering if I would be best to take it one person at a time – to find out as much as I can about that person in that point of time, before going on to another. I have started trying to make notes…but find that I end up hopelessly out of order and lost. Any advice would be appreciated! Help!!!”
My Answer: A Genealogy Research Plan to Deal with the Chaos
“You are not along in this genealogical dilemma! It’s easy to let the records start to take over and lead you around. Set a goal or a genealogy research plan – define what it is you want to know. It might be something very specific about a particular ancestor, or it might just be to fill in the blanks on one particular family. Early in my research I focused on one grandparent, and working backwards, I would strive to fill in all the blanks on that person, then their parents, then their siblings. I wouldn’t “leave” that family until I felt that I had filled in as much of the family group sheet as possible. (We have sort of lost track of the “family group sheet“ in this technological age. But it is an excellent tool for keeping you on track and focused on the blanks that need to be filled.)
An additional strategy is to have a process for dealing with information that is a bit off your current track. Often we feel like we have to pursue it or we’ll lose it. I like to use Evernote (free at Evernote.com) to capture data that I’m not ready to deal with right now, but definitely want to pursue later. I create an Evernote “notebook” for that family surname, and a note book called “future research.” Drag and drop “Future Research” onto the family surname notebook which will create a “stack.” Now you can create notes and drop them into the “Future Research” notebook which is inside the applicable family. Add tags to your note like “newspaper,” “death record,” etc. and some good searchable keywords so that the note will be easy to find when you need it. Now you can capture the item, file it away, and stay focused on the task at hand. Whenever you’re ready to ask a new question, open that Future Research notebook. Use what’s there to inspire the next phase of your genealogy research plan.”
If you would like to learn more about using Evernote for genealogy, I have a quick reference guide in my store that will work wonders in keeping you organized. It’s available for both Windows and Mac, and in both PDF and laminated print format.
Your questions are always welcome! Contact me by email, or leave a voice mail at (925) 272-4021 and you may just hear yourself on the show.
One of the most important things we do as genealogists is share! We share research findings, family stories, trees, heirloom photos and more. These days, sharing online is often the way to go. It’s fast, it’s relatively organized, it gets things into the hands of those who want them and (often) it’s free!
To wrap this series of blog posts on collaborating, I offer 4 ways to share genealogy online (in addition to Dropbox and Evernote, which we discussed in previous posts).
1. Attach scanned documents, photos and stories to your online tree.Whether you keep a tree at MyHeritage, Ancestry, FamilySearch or another site, beef it up with everything you have. That only enriches the body of knowledge out there and gives others a leg up on the next bit of research. You can also include links to applicable notes in Evernote.
2. Post gravestone photos and other burial information at online cemetery sites.BillionGraves and Find A Grave are the two big ones, of course. These sites provide searchability and a platform for collaboration between descendants.
3. Post meaty queries that show what you know and what your questions are.RootsWeb and USGenWeb are two enormous sites, organized by location and topic, where you can post questions about people, places and more. Check out this page on how to write a good query and this Cyndi’s List portal to various message boards. TIP: Remember to include all important related keywords, name and location spellings, and dates in your messages so they are easily found by your long lost cousins using Google!
4. Publish your research. Genealogy newsletters, magazines and journals of all levels (from the local to the national and beyond) want your well-researched, well-written research. What’s a chunk of research you could share? Look for publications that are indexed in PERSI, the Periodical Source Index, because other genealogists are most likely to find your work when it’s indexed there. Of course, family history websites, blogs and books are all great ways to publish your research, too. Just get it out there!
As the online genealogy community continues to grow, our opportunities to grow bigger, better family trees also grow. So my question to you is: What do you have to share? And have you begun?
Check out the magazine article that inspired this series of posts on collaborating. It’s “Teaming Up,” and it appears in the December 2013 issue of Family Tree Magazine. Sharing genealogy files is just one topic we cover. The article itself was a cross-country collaboration between myself and Genealogy Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton. To write it, we relied on a lot of the same tips and tools we recommend!
Finally, check out my previous blog posts in this mini-series on collaboration:
I just love hearing about the growth of digital libraries! Here’s a recent post from the Library of Congress:
“The World Digital Library, a collaborative international project led by the Library of Congress, now includes more than 10,000 manuscripts, maps and atlases, books, prints and photographs, films, sound recordings, and other cultural treasures. The 10,000-item milestone was reached earlier today with the addition of a set of priceless manuscripts from the Walters Art Museum of Baltimore, Maryland, a WDL partner since 2010.
The latest contributions include an early 16th-century Gospel manuscript from Ethiopia, written in Amharic and in Geez, the ancient liturgical language of Ethiopia; a manuscript containing a richly illuminated Ottonian Gospel book fragment believed to have been made at the monastery of Corvey in western Germany during the mid-to-late 10th century; and a menologion, or church calendar, in Greek, created in Byzantium circa 1025-1041.
With the latest additions, the WDL includes 10,037 rare and unique items, comprising nearly 500,000 images. Content contributed by 102 institutions in 46 countries is on the WDL site, which can be accessed in seven languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.
Proposed by the Librarian of Congress and launched in 2009, the World Digital Library makes significant primary materials from countries and cultures around the world freely available. The principal financial supporters of the WDL are Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Qatar National Library of the Qatar Foundation, and the James Madison Council of the Library of Congress.”